Mississippi State’s Ben Howland joined the rest of the league’s coaches on the SEC men’s basketball teleconference on Monday to discuss the Bulldogs recent performances and preview its match-ups this week.
Here is a transcript of Howland’s time on the call…
Howland: “Our first opponent, Texas A&M, is playing great. They’re a nationally ranked team, they’ve really got great senior leadership, they’re really well coached. A couple of the best players in our league in Jalen Jones and Danuel House. They love their freshman big Tyler Davis, so we’ve got our hands full. (Alex) Caruso has led the league in assists the last two years in a row. He’s a special player, so it will be a great challenge for us.”
Howland: “I.J.’s been good for us. He had one of his best games the game right before Christmas against Northern Colorado where he had 11 assists and zero turnovers and really did a good job distributing the ball. That’s key for us, when he’s playing like that as a point guard and getting everybody involved, it really, really helps our team. He’s a good leader, he’s doing a good job talking. So far on the season he has 55 assists and only 21 turnovers, which leads us in that category of assists. I think he’s having a really solid campaign thus far.”
Howland: “I think Malik’s doing a good job. He started out a little slow because he had an injury. He was out for three weeks. He missed the first game of the season and he missed both our exhibition games. He came back and had a toe issue, but the last four games he is averaging 15 points a game, shooting a good percentage from 3 and handling the ball. They work welat’s l together. Having two point guards out there, which I like. Two guys who can shoot it, handle it and make plays for others.”
Howland: “I think he had a really good practice yesterday. We were just having a staff meeting talking about that. He’s just going to I think improving, getting better and better. He missed basically three months of practice, so it takes some time to get his basketball legs back and his conditioning. He came in here with the biggest need of getting stronger and he’s really worked hard at that. He gives us a very skilled player who has great feel for the game. He’s a very smart basketball player and that’s something that will help us moving forward. For him it’s just growing every day and he’s going to keep getting better and better as he performs well. The biggest thing we need out of him is he needs to be a better rebounder and a better defender. I thought in our last game he had a couple cheap fouls in the first half which limited his playing opportunities because he got two fouls in about two minutes. We need him to continue to develop, so we’re excited about Aric.”
Howland: “I don’t think it’s affecting his injury at all. If there was anything at this point that we were doing to affect his injury, he wouldn’t be out there. His knee feels better than it did before he had the surgery. As it turned out, he has told us after the fact that he has had pain in there for a number of years. He wouldn’t even jump off that knee. At the end of the day, the surgery was a really good thing for him moving forward for his long-term career.”